Back in 1997, when I was 30 years old, I had the opportunity to take a lesson with Mick Goodrick who had always been a hero of mine. I'd been planning to seek him out for a lesson for quite some time, and with that goal already in mind the previous year, I had tried (in written form) to organize my thoughts about music and playing the guitar. When I finally did get to sit down with him, I read my "essay" to him, and we spent the rest of the lesson talking about the questions raised and the subjects I had written about. Neither of us even touched a guitar the whole time. He commented on various parts of the essay and gave me advice, most of it very simple and seemingly self-evident, but phrased in such a way as to make me feel like my frustrations and questions were indeed solvable.
He shared an anecdote which he said he usually ended clinics with. He said that when most people are young, they have an initial experience hearing music and being moved by it. Most people think to themselves, "Wow, I really love the way that makes me feel; I think I'll go out and buy the record!" (The updated version might be, "I'll go listen to that on Spotify.") These are the smart people. A few poor souls, however, hear that music and say to themselves, "Wow, I really love the way that makes me feel; I want to be able to do that." Those are the stupid people. Mick suggested that I publish my essay about my problems as a guitar player because he thought it would be helpful for other guitarists who were struggling with the same issues. Based on his anecdote, I decided to call the essay "Confessions of a Stupid Guitarist."
Mick's response to my question of "When am I ever going to find 'my own voice' on my instrument?" has really stuck with me. He said to look at it as though I have a scale with a weight on one side and my job is to make the scale balance by adding sand to the other side one grain at a time. One perspective would be to constantly despair over how much sand I have left to put on the scale and think, "When will this ever be done, dammit?" Another perspective is to simply learn to enjoy the process of putting each grain of sand on the scale and to perhaps examine each grain to find the beauty. In other words, do it for the sake of doing it, not for the sake of achieving the eventual goal. Sometimes we need a reminder that it's all in the journey, not the destination.
After posting the original "Confessions of a Stupid Guitarist" on my first website, I received messages from many musicians who said they found the essay helpful (just as Mick had predicted) and that it was comforting and encouraging to know that other musicians dealt with the same obstacles. In 2005, I decided to write a "Confessions part 2" to discuss my progression as a musician and person since the first essay was written and to offer some suggestions to overcome obstacles outlined in my first essay. This update also seemed to resonate with many people.
Maybe I should work on a part 3 now that 17 years has elapsed since part 2. In that time, I have managed to achieve a certain level of acceptance of my abilities and my unique voice on my instrument. I'm satisfied with continuing to examine each grain of sand and learn something new from it before placing it on the scale and thankful for the opportunity to have this experience.
Please click below to access the essays: